Fourth time's the charm: The best fourth movies
We all know the pattern. In a film series, the first movie sets the stage, the second movie is the best and the third movie is a colossal disappointment. But what's the fourth movie in a franchise, such as the upcoming Matt Damon-free "Bourne Legacy," do?
In most cases, stagnate (looking at you, "Pirates 4"). However, there have been a few cases in which the fourth film has been pretty solid and sometimes even better than its three predecessors. Here are the five best fourth installments.
5. "Terminator Salvation"
Let's get this out of the way now: no, "Terminator Salvation" is not better than "Terminator 2: Judgment Day." The plot isn't much (humans fight robots, bang, pow, etc.), and a mid-story twist involving Sam Worthington's character is pretty predictable even if it wasn't in the trailers.
As an explosion-filled summer diversion, however, McG's 2009 apocalyptic blow-'em-up is more than up to par. Christian Bale, as usual, is freakishly intense, almost forcing the viewer to get involved in the barely-there story. The important thing is the action, which is relentlessly exciting, especially the opening battle and a thrillingly epic car vs. robo-motorcycle chase. It's too bad Bale's infamous tirade stole most of the attention.
4. "Live Free or Die Hard"
When fans of the original "Die Hard" heard director Len Wiseman's 2007 installment would be PG-13, there was outrage. If John McClane couldn't blast giant bloody holes into bad guys and drop f-bombs, what was the point? He'd just be another generic action hero instead of the un-apologetically awesome one we'd come to know, love and watch every Christmas.
Luckily, even without the profanity and blood, "Live Free and Die Hard" is an old-fashioned fun time at the theater. The wisecracks are clever, and the action, mostly featuring practical effects and stunts, is just as gloriously explosive as audiences hoped. Any complaints people have toward the movie can easily be deflected with the fact that McClane explodes a helicopter with a car. That wins any argument.
3. "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire"
The fourth Harry Potter film, directed by Mike Newell, is surprisingly one of the most ridiculed by the Rowling's faithful following. It's strange because I happen to think it's the best of the series, compressing the 734-word novel into a propulsive, thrilling saga that's enjoyable for wizards and Muggles alike.
Newell has great control over the packed story, getting to almost all of the book's important moments while not feeling rushed (the later films, though well-made, would have the opposite problem, endlessly stretching the story out). He also got the young actors as they were growing out of childhood and into their characters. Most importantly, "Goblet of Fire" gets the tone just right for the series. It's got the winsomeness of the first two but also the darkness of Cuaron's "Prisoner of Azkaban." Each of the Potter installments are solid, but it's the fourth one that works like magic.
2. "Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol"
Anyone still upset with Tom Cruise and his past media debacles should put their issues aside, at least for 133 minutes, so they can enjoy the marvels of "Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol." Hey, the guy may be a little crazy and unpredictable, but he makes one heck of an awesome action star. No one runs from a raging dust cloud like Cruise.
Let's not give Cruise all of the credit. Director Brad Bird, who has mainly charmed audiences with his animated hits (namely "The Iron Giant" and "The Incredibles"), made an impressive move over to live-action, filling "M:I 4" with an effortless energy that most action movies strain for. Plus, his set-piece moments – including Cruise's climb on the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world – are genuinely breathtaking.
1. "Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope"
I might be cheating with this one. Yes, technically "The Phantom Menace" was the fourth movie in the series. However, the first "Star Wars" is labeled as the fourth episode, and chronologically speaking, it is the fourth film. There's also no way I'm putting "The Phantom Menace" anywhere near a list containing the word "best" in the title.
The fact of the matter, though, is that "A New Hope" is just a great movie. It's the first movie, which means it has to introduce the characters and set the stage. Normally, that leads to a relatively tame film, but "A New Hope" is filled with such colorful characters, strong emotions and a real sense of adventure that it's incredible its predecessor, "The Empire Strikes Back," was able to match it. Millions of people love and dedicate their lives to "Star Wars." Watch "A New Hope" again, and you'll understand why.
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